How To Win Against History Is A Win-Win Situation

How to Win Against History, The Young Vic ★★★★★

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How To Win Against History Is A Win-Win Situation How to Win Against History, The Young Vic 5
Photo by Kristina Banholzer

Britain has always loved its eccentrics. Well, as long as they don’t cross the line. The Edwardians weren’t particularly impressed by the antics of cross dresser Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquis of Anglesey.

Born into the ruling class and destined for power and influence, he instead chose to wear bejewelled gowns and rapidly frittered away the vast family fortunes on diamonds and bizarre theatrical endeavours. He was so frowned upon that when he died in Monte Carlo at the age of 29, his furious heirs tried to obliterate his existence by burning his diaries, letters and photographs. Thankfully, Seriol Davies has resurrected Henry in this funny and strangely moving one act show that’s so much more than a historical homage.

Photo by Kristina Banholzer

Three men, an organ and a glittering headdress, all illustrating the tale of an obscure historical figure is perhaps not the most enticing prospect. There’s a touch of the twee Radio 4 comedy about the opening of the play and at first it, wrongly, feels like this might be a jarring 85 minutes.

It’s a much more nuanced and complex piece than that, though and it draws you in deftly. Much like Henry, it’s an unpredictable and dazzling beast. With a set mix that feels like Gilbert and Sullivan have teamed up with Beyonce and Lloyd Webber to write the music, this is a singular experience and a thoroughly modern one. It’s an accessible play and one that leaves the audience smiling at the absurdity of it all whilst reflecting (a little bit but not too much) on how it is to be different in a structured society.

Much like Henry, this is something that defies definition and brings a glistening light to a drab winter night. It’s not hard to see why this garnered awards at The Edinburgh Fringe and the space at The Maria, the upstairs theatre at The Young Vic, is a perfect home for this.

How to Win Against History, The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, SE1 8LZ, £20-25, until 30 December 2017.

Last Updated 07 December 2017